Wednesday, March 6, 2019

The Tears of Autumn: Charles McCarry

Following my post on The Shanghai Factor by Charles McCarry two days ago, here are my thoughts on another book by that author, probably his most well-known book, The Tears of Autumn. I read that book for the first time in June of 2009.

After I heard of Charles McCarry's recent passing, I began re-reading The Tears of Autumn, the second book in the Paul Christopher series. Christopher is a CIA agent, and this book takes place in a few weeks before and after John F. Kennedy's death in 1963.

In this story, McCarry proposes a solution for the Kennedy assassination.

From the dust jacket of my hardback edition:
Christopher, at the height of his powers, believes he knows who arranged the assassination, and why. His theory is so destructive of the legend of the dead president, though, and so dangerous to the survival of foreign policy that he is ordered to desist from investigating. But he is a man who lives by, and for, the truth--and his internal compunctions force him to the heart of the matter. Christopher resigns from the Agency and embarks on a tour of investigation that takes him from Paris to Rome, Zurich, the Congo, and Saigon.
I will introduce this book to you with a quote from Patrick Anderson's review at The Washington Post, following the release of the Overlook Press reprint edition in 2005. (The book was originally published in 1974.)
I approached this handsome new edition of Charles McCarry's masterpiece, "The Tears of Autumn," with trepidation. The novel was first published in 1974, and it has been more than 20 years since I last read it. I had only a hazy memory that (1) it was beautifully written, (2) it offered a plausible theory of the Kennedy assassination and (3) it was a classic. My concern was that, given a new reading, the novel might not hold up, but my fear was groundless. "The Tears of Autumn" is beautifully written, its conspiracy theory still intrigues and it most assuredly is a classic.

I wholeheartedly agree with Patrick Anderson. This is a fantastic book by an underappreciated novelist. It is hard for me to explain what I like so much about his books. I don't even know that this is my favorite in the Paul Christopher series. I read all of the books in the series in 2009 and I loved the series overall.

The first book, The Miernik Dossier, is very different from the rest of the books, telling the story through transcripts of conversations, memos, diary entries and such. The series skips around in time, and each book is a bit different, so it probably doesn't even matter what order they are read in, but I read them in order of publication. I give a brief overview of the series and the author in this post on the blog.

One complaint about Paul Christopher's character is that he is too perfect, noted by the reviewer above and others. I never noticed that. He is intelligent and determined, he believes in finding the truth and exposing it, but he also risks other people's lives to get at the truth, so I did not see him as a paragon.

If you like spy fiction and you haven't tried Charles McCarry's books, they are worth a try.


Publisher:   Overlook Press, 2005 (orig. publ. 1974)
Length:       276 pages
Format:      Hardcover
Series:       Paul Christopher, #2
Setting:      US, Vietnam, Rome, Switzerland, and more
Genre:       Spy fiction
Source:      I purchased this book.


Anonymous said...

OK, now I really need to read this one, Tracy. It always interests me how some authors, like McCarry, are/were very talented, but don't get a lot of recognition - or at least not as much as they ought to get. Thanks for keeping McCarry in our minds.

J F Norris said...

This was brought back into the forefront back in 2011 when it was discovered that it had been used as a primary source for the infamous plagiarized spy novel Assassin of Secrets by Quentin Rowan (aka "Q. R. Markham"). I think there are only a couple hundred copies still floating around, mostly ARCs, because the publisher demanded they be returned to be destroyed. But thankfully none of the 33 copie sI found for asle online are priced as collector's items. To think that someone would be so ignorant as to steal from an extremely well regarded espionage novel is an almost unfathomable mix of extreme arrogance and utter stupidity. I've been meaning to read McCrary's book for years. I literally stumbled across my copy of TEARS OF AUTUMN last night while looking for a completely different book. It was in a box of books to donate. Now it's been rescued as a soon-to-read selection thanks to your review.

TracyK said...

This book is very interesting, Margot. It kept me riveted even though I had read it before.

TracyK said...

How interesting about Assassin of Secrets, John. I had not heard any of that, and I cannot imagine why someone would do that. I do hope you read and enjoy TEARS OF AUTUMN, and in any case share your thoughts one way or the other.

Mathew Paust said...

Sold! Not this one, Tracy, atho, as I am still mentally exhausted from anxiety over the past half-century struggling with the theories and evidence surrounding what happened Nov. 22, 1963. But it does sound like McCarry is a writer worth getting to know.

TracyK said...

I am going to reread more of McCarry's books when I have time, Matt, and read The Mulberry Bush, his last book. This one did take me back to 1963 and thinking about that time period in the South.

col2910 said...

I should bump McCarry up the pile a bit. Maybe I'll read the Markham book directly after, to see if I can spot the theft. I thought he lifted from a variety of sources, but I might be wrong.

TracyK said...

Now that would be interesting, Col. Also, I went ahead and bought a copy of Invisible Dead by Sam Wiebe, the first book in the Wakeland series, even though I don't need anymore books. But it is set in Canada, and I read a preview on Amazon and I liked that.

col2910 said...

Oh, looking forward to how you get on with Sam Wiebe and Dave Wakeland.